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ASMSA developing new program

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The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts is developing an entrepreneurship under the guidance of instructor Steve Rice, who will work mainly from an office for ASMSA's Coding Arkansas' Future initiative in the Little Rock Technology Park.

Rice previously worked for The Venture Center, a startup incubator that supports high-growth entrepreneurs located in Little Rock. The center encourages a growing startup community in central Arkansas by offering various levels of support to new businesses. He also started his own small marketing firm.

Previous connections within the startup community will be a critical aspect of Rice's new position. Rice said finding ways to engage students with various business entities will be vital to the development of the entrepreneurship program.

"I think it's almost essential (to have a space in the Tech Park)," Rice said. "People are wanting to plug in. People have all these ideas. I look forward to finding ways to leverage that for our students, to give them exposure to those people and to expose them to our students."

Rice said some may have an incorrect vision of ASMSA students when they first hear about the school.

"They are imagining a typical high schooler, but we don't have typical high-schoolers," Rice said. "We need to help them better understand what we're doing here.

"My business colleagues are always wanting the top tech talent. We have that in development (at ASMSA). Investing in our students is a value add for them in the long run. I believe that if we can prove this out at ASMSA we can do this with any student across Arkansas."

Rice's position falls under ASMSA's Coding Arkansas' Future initiative. The program started in 2015 as a way to provide computer science instruction for students across Arkansas as well as professional development for a future corps of computer science teachers while using ASMSA's computer science education experience.

Daniel Moix, director of the initiative, will work with Rice to get students involved in the program. Moix also works part-time from the Tech Park office.

Rice and Moix led the first ASMSA Weekend Innovation Bootcamp on campus. ASMSA students spent the weekend in an entrepreneurial boot camp, developing team-building, collaboration and problem-solving skills.

The success of the first boot camp will likely lead to additional events on the ASMSA campus and through outreach efforts across the state that would involve students from other schools.

"We can overlay some of those entrepreneurial concepts, introduce some of those ideas, into computer science education," Rice said. "It's a different sandbox but with the same kind of context.

"I'm interested in exploring how we can push those lines and create something for students who go through a coding block. It will help push those who want to learn to code an app beyond just learning how to code the app."

Rice and Moix are also working on a way to develop a program that would include developing entrepreneurial ideation and coding skills in preparation for the Congressional App Challenge. The challenge is a congressional initiative that encourages student engagement in coding and computer science through local app challenges hosted by members of Congress.

Rice said Moix sees computer science education as teaching problem-solving. He said sees entrepreneurship in much the same way.

"I want them to understand how business works," Rice said. "If they understand the components of a business and how they build their value, then that's where we reach beyond entrepreneurship. It's really about better problem-solving. It's not just an entrepreneurship program but becomes more of an intentional and strategic problem-solving program."

School on 10/08/2017

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